Note: Head Chaplain Rev. Joseph Illo delivered the following homily at the nuptial Mass of Annie (Kaiser ’11) and Chris Kuebler (’04) on June 28, 2014, in Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity Chapel.
An Extraordinary Wedding
On behalf of the Kuebler and Kaiser families, I welcome all of you to this Chapel of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, the jewel of Thomas Aquinas College. Chris and Annie have chosen to be married in what we call the “extraordinary form” of the Mass, perhaps because they aspire to an extraordinary marriage. You’ll notice that in this form of the Mass, bride and groom exchange vows before Mass so they can attend the sacrifice as husband and wife. We attend not only to witness their public commitment, but also to pray for them. It is not easy to be married, but for those who make the necessary sacrifices, it is the highest and most consoling blessing this side of heaven, a foretaste of divine love in heaven.
A Rightly-Ordered Marriage Rightly Orders all of Society
Towards the end of Mass, just after the Pater Noster, I will impart the nuptial blessing upon our bride and groom. You will notice that the blessing focuses more on the woman than the man; some say it imposes a disproportionate responsibility on the woman. In one sense, women do bear the greater responsibility for marriage and family life, even as they have born each of us for nine months in their bodies and for life, in their hearts. “The future of humanity passes by way of the family,” St. John Paul wrote in 1981, and I might add that the family itself passes through the heart of the mother. If Mamma’s not happy, nobody’s happy.
So, like St. Joseph, husbands must quietly serve the mother, who herself quietly serves the child. In God’s plan, as we see in the Holy Family, the child is at the center of a marriage, and after him the mother, and then the man. In social systems without God, marriage and family is turned upside down: the man is center stage because he is the most powerful, and then the woman, who is forever grasping for her share of power from the man, and least of all, and quite neglected, is the child. This is the current state of affairs (present company excluded, of course). This upside-down social structure, which must either right itself or collapse, is the world into which both of you are marrying. It is your task to help restore right order to our social landscape by witnessing to the truth in love (veritas in caritate, in Pope Benedict’s words). Power is not man’s final end. Love is. Love one another, the way Joseph loved Mary, the way Mary loved Jesus, the way Jesus loves you.
The nuptial blessing includes these words: “O God, by Whom woman is joined to man, on which fellowship society mainly depends …” Both of you, in the manner specific to your sex, contribute to that “joining,” that con-jugal bond which embraces every dimension of your lives. The connubial bond, or lack thereof, determines the well-being of so many others, beginning with your children (should God be pleased to grant you this blessing). Marriage is essentially a public act, although it has private dimensions. When marriage becomes just a private adventure between two consenting adults, it loses its meaning and society begins to unravel. Your task is to knit it back together by knitting yourselves together.
A Sacrament of God’s Fidelity and Love for Us
In Ephesians’ famous description of marriage, St. Paul first addresses the woman: “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands,” for the husband is head of his wife as is Christ to the Church. The responsibility to achieve and maintain this level of trust is immense. But you do this in order to sanctify your husband, who will respond to your holiness with an even greater holiness of his own. He is to be another Christ to you, and to all the world through you. God has given the woman that initial grace of purity and love for others that nourishes sanctity. Mother Teresa would say that simple thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity. The simple thoughtfulness of the woman sanctifies her husband. The husband, in the end, has the great task of “loving” his wife as Christ loved the Church. Consider how privileged is the wife’s role in bringing forth this supreme sanctity in the heart of her husband.
Obviously, you can’t do this. Jesus says flatly, a little further in today’s Gospel (Matt 19), that lifelong faithful marriage — the kind of total surrender and loving trust that manifests heaven on earth — is impossible for man. “But not for God,” he adds. And so you have come to the altar of God at the beginning of your married life. To sustain the love you are given this day — even to grow that love as good stewards — you need a consistent, disciplined life of prayer. Take the trouble to pray, to pray often, alone and together. This marriage will not work — you are too sinful, both of you — unless you pray often, from the heart. Sometimes you will pray alone with none but thee, my God. Sometimes you will pray together as a couple. Sometimes as a family. You must develop your own conjugal life of prayer. But let me remind you of the family rosary. The family that prays together stays together. Christopher, God places you at the head of the family, and that means above all the spiritual head. Do not wait for your wife to lead the rosary or any other prayer. She and the children will gladly follow you in sanctity, but you must go before them all.
Place your marriage, and your children, in the hands of our Jesus’ own mother; pray for hearts so beautiful, so pure, as the Immaculate heart of Mary, whose feast day we celebrate today. If you are consistent with the family rosary, nothing really evil can touch you. May God bless you now, and all the days of your married life.
“We are studying to find the truth in each of the liberal arts, to see the truth in all of God’s creation. It helps you understand why we are here as rational human beings.”
– Thomas Lawlor (’13)
“Thomas Aquinas College is doing on the undergraduate level exactly what should be done. The College's alumni and alumnae prove that with this kind of education you can go on and do anything.”
– Dr. Ralph McInerny (†)
Scholar and Writer